Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

NHRA O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals - Memphis, Tennessee

Written by  September 30, 2005

We arrived at the America’s Best Value Inn in Memphis on a very sticky, hot August night for a weekend of exciting NHRA drag racing. This was the O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals, which ESPN was also covering, as it was being televised.

We contacted April Potter, in charge of media relations for the NHRA, who wasted no time in getting us hooked up to be right in the middle of all the racing action for the weekend. Michael Padian took over at the track for media relations. He got us all the results of each round when they were over and provided us with 2005 media guides with driver pictures and bio’s, etc. Michael made sure that we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner there in our air-conditioned piece of heaven, the media suite. He provided a large, tall cooler full of ice-cold hydrating material, and he made sure that the large Power Aid coolers all around the track stayed filled for all of the photographers. The weekend temperature was around 100 degrees, and on the track it was around 140. There was very little relief when the sun went down.

Friday and Saturday was qualifying for the big race final on Sunday, and after four rounds of qualifying in those two days, the stage was set for Sunday’s Pro Stock Bike Showdown!

They started Sunday in the following order:
#1 qualifier was Andrew Hines on a 2004 Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod
#2 G.T Tonglet on a 2004 Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod
#3 Angelle Sampey on a 1998 Suzuki
#4 Chris Reavas on a 2005 Buell
#5 Antron Brown on a 1998 Suzuki
#6 Chip Ellis on a 2004 Buell
#7 Michael Phillips on a 1998 Suzuki
#8 Ryan Schnitz on a 2005 Buell
#9 Karen Stoffer on a 2003 Suzuki—Karen had top speed for the weekend in the 4th round of qualifying, at a speed of 188.28—That’s pretty damn fast!
#10 Mike Berry on a 2003 Suzuki
#11 Shawn Gann on a 2003 Suzuki
#12 Matt Guidera on a 2005 Buell
#13 Steve Johnson on a 2003 Suzuki
#14 Joe DeSantis on a 1998 Suzuki
#15 Geno Scali on a 2003 Suzuki
#16 Matt Smith on a 2003 Suzuki

Leigh had already met Cruz Pedregon Friday, so on Saturday we decided to see who else we could find in the pit area. Despite the heat, all of the crews were busy readying their rides, whether it be four wheels or two. All of the people we met were super nice. They didn’t seem to mind posing in the baking sun for photos or giving autographs. Karen Stoffer we found to be not only very talented, but also very friendly and very cute. We thought it was kind of cool that after she went out Sunday, she still went to the track to support her fellow riders that were left. Steve Johnson’s camp let us cool off in front of their monster fan. And when we stopped at Kurt Matte’s pit area to “chat” awhile, he took my towel and dipped it into their ice cold cooler for me. Might not sound like much, but, man, that was a welcome blessing as everyone was doing all they could to get cooled off. The track had two large buses set up for people to go in and cool off, and they had several water-blowing fans set up. Many people were taken away over the three days due to heat.

There were probably around 20,000 people in attendance Friday and Saturday, and we figured more on Sunday. The driver introductions on Sunday were a lot of fun; even the drivers were having fun with it! We got to talk to Steve Johnson, and after discussing the fact that his shop was near our house, he told us to stop by sometime. That was all we needed to hear because we had been talking about wanting to go out there.
Also, we found that the guy is a NUT! —I love it! He was “touring” around with his “egg” in a frying pan to illustrate how hot it was. We got to meet and get pictures and autographs from most of the pro stock bikes, and Leigh got to meet John Force and Tony Schumacher, and he finally got a picture of Antron. Angelle was a different story, all weekend. As they lined up before they were set to roll out to the track for the finals, I thought I would finally get my chance to get a good picture of her, but once again she had other ideas on the subject.

Andrew Hines, G.T Tonglet, Chris Revas, and Shawn Gann were the sole survivors of the second round. Not bad for rookie Chris Revas! Andrew Hines and G.T Tonglet were the two that made it through the third round to make it an all-Harley final! (Got that Dave?) The Harley’s were SCREAMING down the track. Leigh was loving it. Andrew Hines went on to win! Congratulations to you and your crew and Harley-Davidson. So basically, Andrew and G.T finished the day the way they had started it, first and second! Pretty cool!

After the last car went down the track, they set off the fireworks that were lined up the track. What a spectacular way to end an exciting weekend of racing and kick off the celebration for all the winners. The celebration carried over to the award ceremony, where all of the winners were brought out for their awards, then the whole group for group pictures. The party wrapped up back in the media suite for all of the winners to be interviewed by the media. We got to meet Greg Anderson, who won the pro stock car in his 2005 Summit Racing G.T.O., Eric Medlen, who won the funny car in his 2005 Castrol Syntec Mustang, and “Hot” Rod Fuller, who won the Top Fuel in his 2005 David Powers Motorsports Hadman.

Despite the massive heat wave, there were No-Blow-Outs, No-Blown Engines, and No-Wrecks! It was awesome; we loved it, in spite of the heat! We got to not only feel the earth shake, but we actually saw the air vibrate! Mother Nature heated up the town, while the NHRA blistered up the track for a scorcher of a weekend.

Update: The race that followed Memphis was at Indy, where after some deliberation, Steve Johnson was found to be the winner! Way to go Steve! Congratulations!

We got to meet the Harley representatives for the Vance & Hines team, and we would like to mention to everyone how the Harley-Davidson company has donated $1 million to the Red Cross hurricane relief fund, and they also donated a 2006 touring motorcycle to the Tonight Show for Jay Leno to get autographed by his guests. The bike will be auctioned off on eBay, much like they did for the tsunami benefit where they raised $810,000.

All of us here at Cycle Connections would like to express our heart-felt sympathy to all of those on the Gulf Coast suffering loss! Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you!

Write-On and Ride-On

Story and Photos by Lynn Reynolds & Leigh Lilly:
Lynn Reynolds and
Leigh Lilly - Birmingham, Alabama